On Wednesday, December 10, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) approved its 2015 budget for the park system, which serves more than 21 million visits annually. The budget focuses on maintaining park services and facilities, strategically addressing financial and operational challenges, improving organizational efficiency and service delivery, and addressing Emerald Ash Borer and other threats to the urban tree canopy.
"The budget includes the General Fund operating budget that reflects a 4 percent property tax increase and focuses on establishing a financially sustainable funding model, supporting ongoing operations, addressing threats to the urban tree canopy, continuing our work on equity across the park system, including racial equity, and implementing organizational changes that will improve efficiency and enhance service delivery. It reflects the MPRB's commitment to sound financial management and strategic long-term planning," explained Superintendent Jayne Miller. "It also includes the second year of an eight year special levy dedicated to the removal and replacement of infested and distressed ash trees and replanting of trees lost during storms. The combined levies reflect a 4.9 percent property tax increase over 2014."
In 2015, of every dollar Minneapolis residents pay for property taxes, eight cents will go to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The MPRB 2015 Budget totals $68,241,007 for the general operating fund, $1,445,500 for the special revenue fund dedicated to trees, $7,858,849 for the enterprise operating fund and $11,462,000 for capital project funding.
"In June, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was named the number one park system in the nation for the second year in a row and earned the another "five park bench" rating on The Trust for Public Land's ParkScore® index," said Miller. "It is because of the vision and commitment of those who have been here before us, and everyone who is committed to the Minneapolis park system today, that we received this prestigious honor from The Trust for Public Land. It's a wonderful tribute to all the dedication and hard work over our 131 year history and a great responsibility to continue that work moving forward."
The 2015 budget and related documents are available for viewing at www.minneapolisparks.org/budget or by calling 612-230-6400.
According to Miller, organizational performance initiatives implemented in 2012-2014, including equipment optimization and improved labor distribution in forestry and maintenance, have resulted in $2.3 million in annual savings. She cautions however, that even with these operational savings and the 4.9 percent levy increase, there are significant financial and service challenges facing the MPRB.
"The Park Board is committed to establishing long-term financial sustainability in operations and capital infrastructure. Despite significant budget reductions, efficiency improvements, and expansion of creative revenue generating opportunities, rising costs and increased usage continue to strain our ability to meet all of the demands placed on the park system," Miller explained. "Couple the operational pressures with the continued under-funding of park capital infrastructure; the MPRB has reached a critical juncture requiring significant attention to address the gap between available resources and the demand on and needs of the park system."
Key financial challenges include inadequate funding for general park maintenance and for delivery of quality recreation services, particularly youth services. The 2015 budget includes initiatives to identify standard service levels for park maintenance and an assessment of community needs at recreation centers.
Other key financial challenges include minimum wage increases, Affordable Care Act impacts, rising health care costs, and inflationary increases, especially in construction costs.
The budget also begins to address staff capacity issues and past operating budget reductions that negatively impact service delivery. The MPRB currently has 19% fewer employees, or the equivalent of 115 full-time employees, than it did in 2003. The 2014 budget included staff increases in recreation and forestry; the 2015 budget includes staff increases to begin to meet basic organizational needs.
Initiatives and changes for 2015 include:
In 2015, there are no fee increases for the vast majority of activities, permits and programs. There are market-rate increases for select activities and services.
Miller commends the dedication and work of MPRB commissioners and employees to deliver services to the community, but she also stresses the need to address the growing funding shortfall for neighborhood park capital.
"The parks are the gems of the city but capital investments for maintaining the parks, particularly the neighborhood parks, have not kept pace with the growing use of, and demands on, the park system," Miller said. "Since becoming Superintendent four years ago, there have been tremendous efforts by the Board and the staff to address this issue, but we are facing a stark reality; unless we deal with the growing capital shortfall, the parks will continue to deteriorate."
Dawn Sommers, Communications and Marketing Manager
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board